Do dogs have whiskers? Yes, they do. Dog whiskers or vibrissae are more than just hairs sticking out of dog’s face. What are dog whiskers for? They have three primary uses, making them an indispensable part of your dog’s body.
What are whiskers?
Whiskers are also known as vibrissae. It comes from the Latin word vibrio, which means ‘to vibrate.’ These are long, coarse hairs that stand out against regular facial hairs.
Dog whiskers usually grow around dog’s muzzle, jaw, above his eyes, chin, and lips. They are deeply rooted in the skin. Their follicles at the base have a high concentration of touch-sensitive neurons that send sensory messages to his brain.
The transmission of information to the sensory cells occurs every time the whiskers detect a movement or an object. Because of this, whiskers are considered tactile hairs. This means they are very sensitive to the touch.
What are the different types of whiskers?
Before we find out the answer to the question, ‘What are dog whiskers for?,’ let’s get to know the four different types of whiskers dogs have. These whiskers may look the same to dog owners, but each type of whisker has a unique function.
- Genal Whiskers
They sprout on your dog’s cheeks.
Genal whiskers serve as a sensor that aids him to get a feel of what’s happening in his peripheral vision.
- Interramal Tufts
These are commonly grown from the moles underneath the chin.
Their function is to help your dog sense what is below their head. Most dogs sport interramal tufts.
- Mystacial Whiskers
They are located on your dog’s muzzle, right over his upper lip.
Out of all four types of whiskers, these are the most prominent ones. These whiskers give your dog a sense of direction as he explores.
- Supraorbital Whiskers
These types of whiskers can easily be mistaken for eyebrows. They are found just above your dog’s eyes.
Supraorbital whiskers detect possible harmful objects that may cause damage to his eyes.
What are the uses of a dog’s whiskers?
Now that you know what dog whiskers are and their different types, you may already have a general grasp of their uses. Here’s how dogs utilise their very sensitive whiskers:
- Dog whiskers show what your dog is feeling.
Pooches can communicate their feelings through their whiskers.
For instance, in situations with predators and other dogs, if your dog feels threatened, he will likely flare his whiskers and then point them towards the threat.
- Dog whiskers act as a radar sensor.
Your furry friend’s whiskers give him the ability to navigate his surroundings.
When your dog draws near on something in his path, the air currents are stirred. As a result, these bounce back after they hit nearby solid objects. His whiskers can perceive the faint vibrations brought by the shift in air currents and act as a radar detector.
In the wild, dog whiskers play a role in detecting the size, shape, and speed of potential predators nearing or any other types of threats. They also help hunting dogs track down their prey.
Meanwhile, in a domestic setting, whiskers aid our furry companions to locate their favourite toys or food bowls. At night, they keep dogs from bumping into furniture or walls in the dark.
- Dog whiskers keep dogs safe in little ways.
Dog whiskers are highly sensitive that they can feel even the smallest particles.
They sense if something is about to impact the eye, such as dust.
Signals will be transmitted to your dog’s brain, and he will reflexively blink to keep the foreign object from entering his eyes. Dog whiskers are also helpful in determining if your pooch can fit in a narrow passage or not.
Do all dogs have whiskers?
All dogs have whiskers regardless of their age. Even newborn puppies sport whiskers! They do not need to reach puberty for this facial hair to grow. The location and pattern of whiskers may vary depending on the dog breed.
Is it safe to trim a dog’s whiskers?
Some dog owners, especially those who ‘show’ their dogs, prefer whiskers to be removed. However, experts advise pet owners to avoid trimming whiskers unless recommended by the vet.
A significant portion of your dog’s brain is dedicated to data processing from touch sensors. Since whiskers are very dependable touch sensors, about 40% of his brain’s sensory area aligns with the body parts with whiskers.
If whiskers are removed, anecdotal evidence suggests that it will make him less spatially aware. It may also cause confusion or disorientation.
If the groomer accidentally snipped off your dog’s whiskers, don’t worry. It will not hurt him as the hairs don’t contain pain receptors.
On the other hand, the roots of dog whiskers comprise of sensitive nerves. Never try to pull them out. If you have children in your household, teach them not to play with your dog’s whiskers. He will be in pain, and bleeding may occur if his whiskers get pulled out.
Do dog whiskers grow back?
Sadly, there is not enough research to tell how long it takes for dog whiskers to grow back. In general, it is believed that their growth rate is similar to the rest of the dog’s hair.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted research to study dogs’ hair regrowth rates.
They gathered eleven Labrador retrievers and clipped their fur. After that, they waited until it grows back to its original length. Results show that it takes approximately 13.6 to 15.4 weeks for each dog’s coat to return to preclipped length. Thus, it is assumed that this is the same for dog whiskers as well.
Note that hair growth varies from dog to dog. Moreover, many factors can affect it, such as the breed and the dog’s overall health.